Sep 20, 2015

inside Sri Ranganathasvami Temple

In the last post I had nothing but 2 ipod snap shots to show you of the inside of a great Tamil Nadu temple. Here I've gotten my camera through all of the seven concentric walled courtyards of the temple in Kaveri on one of their most sacred days. It's the Ganesh festival. The whole town has the day off. Everyone except the temple elephant. Ganesh is the elephant god, his specialty is clearing all the obstacles in your way. So I'll start with the eye of the elephant and then continue to show how he blesses the town's infants.

This is a day to wear your 'Sunday best' or just to take a nap in the temple on a hot afternoon. The final shot shows one of the temple cats prowling in front of the booth where they sell offerings for the temple gods.

This morning I'm traveling north by train for almost three days to Calcutta.

Sep 13, 2015

Meenakshi Temple in Madurai

Meenakshi Temple, like the Taj Mahal, was built in the 1630s.  The Taj was described by Tagore, India's most acclaimed poet, as "a teardrop on the face  of humanity."  I don't have a Tagore concerning Meenakshi Temple, but the four exterior towers look to my western eyes like wedding cakes on an acid flashback to India.

The huge temple interior, on the other hand, with its reflecting pool, its majestic passageways large enough that one can walk down them beside the temple elephant and be passed by a stream of Hindu worshippers without feeling crowded— it just took my breath away. Unfortunately, inside they now only allow cellphone photography. The second to last image shows an iPod image of a worshipper before the reflecting pool, the last photo is of an entrance to the Hindu only inner sanctum.

Sep 10, 2015

Painted Tigers

From the first brushstrokes at 3 a.m., to a room full of men waiting to have their bellies transformed into great cats in the early afternoon, to the stripping off of the paint with turpentine at 10 p.m., I was behind the scenes August 31st photographing the team that wound up winning the 2015 Pulikali Tiger Dance Championship— the team from Kottappuram Temple. This is just a preview of the project I'll do a more professional job of processing a larger selection of images from this spring when I return to the USA.

Sep 2, 2015

that storied Sea- August 28

Every child I met in the fishing village greeted me with, "Happy Onam!" The beach was nearly deserted as the fishermen weren't working the biggest holiday of the year. After photographing a few of their boats I sat beneath a coconut tree and finished re-reading The Ramayana.

And doesn't this fishing boat look as ready to set sail into a storybook as into the Arabian Sea? For that matter, doesn't the Arabian Sea sound like it belongs no  where else but in a storybook? So, a story...

At the end of each year that Ravana, a great ten-headed demon, meditated beneath a coconut tree, he cut off one of his heads. Just as Ravana's tenth year of meditation came to an end and he extended his blade to make that final cut, Brahma rushed in saying, "Sheath that blade. I'll give you back your tenacious ten-headed brain and grant the first wish that slips into it".

Nine newly restored faces twisted into an evil smirk while the unseverered tenth head said, "I want to be invincible in battle against any god or demon."

And Brahma rolled his eyes as he thought, "If he hadn't been too arrogant to think of the men and the animals, he'd be really dangerous."

That is part of the set-up for the great Hindu epic poem, The Ramayana. After Ravana littered the golden avenues of heaven with divine corpses, it fell to the great king Rama and his friends Jambavan, king of the bears, and the rambunctious young Hanuman, later to become the monkey god, to deal with the demon king.

Lily, Tyler, Emily, Grey, and everyone I recommend that you read this story to your nieces\children\grand children. Maybe start by watching A Little Princess  (1995) directed by Alfonso Cuaron in which the little heroine thrills her friends with tales inspired by The Ramayana.

P.S. --- Hey, I'm in the news, as I'm posting this today, Sept, 2nd. But, you may not have heard about it. I certainly hadn't as I started out traveling this morning.

The trains are just about the only thing running in India this Wednesday.

Imagine my surprise when the train arrived in the city where I was to switch to a bus, and  I walked out of the station expecting to have a dozen little 3-wheeled taxi drivers clamoring for my attention, but there were none. That's like a picnic without flies--- its not something you'd notice, unless, you actually happened to need one of those 3-wheeled flies. I was thirsty so I looked for a stand to buy a bottle of water and then I noticed that all the shops were shuttered.

I found  a policeman who explained:

"No taxis, no bus, no water. Only strike."

The BBC News says 150 million workers across India are striking to protest the ruling party's pro-business, anti-labor policies.  But I don't think they're counting the shopkeepers or maybe it's just that I'm in Kerala where there are pictures of Che Guevara everywhere because here the communists are the ruling party.

I hiked with my bags 3 kilometers to the bus station to find that, yes, no buses. I took a room in a YMCA hotel with a restaurant which they promised would open at noon. However, before noon their restaurant workers decided to join the strike. I think that after that the workers must have had a prayer session with the hotel managers and agreed that the restaurant would stay closed, but they would offer room service one time to any guests that were stuck starving in their rooms. Plus the YMCA gave me two free bottles of water and the strike ends tomorrow morning.